To me, this is the most exciting feature in the PS5’s DualSense, which is why I saved it for last.
Sony has always tried to do more with their controllers. People who got the PS1 were startled when Metal Gear Solid villain, Psycho Mantis, had players put their controllers on the ground as Psycho Mantis would use the complex rumble feature to move the controller around on the floor. Ever since then, Sony has pushed more and more to turn their controllers into a portal for the player to feel more in touch with the game.
Those who owned a PlayStation 3 suddenly had a crash course in motion controllers when they found that tilting the controller itself adjusted projectiles in Heavenly Sword and altered the throwing arc of grenades in Uncharted.
The PS5 expanded upon this by adding a light bar that can change color to match health or show an equipped skill, along with an internal speaker that can make certain things feel a lot more interesting. Anyone who collected crystals in Knack knows exactly what I’m talking about.
The DualSense takes this to the next level. The controller features one of the most complex series of rumbles and actuators allowing you to more feel resistance. The example they gave is to feel the “slow grittiness of driving a car through mud”.
In addition to this, the DualSense features “adaptive triggers”. These triggers are going to have a lot of tech in them, so much so that they had to redesign the controller to fit all the tech in.
An active trigger provides resistance based off certain activities. The example they always give is archery. If you’re in the game using a bow and arrow and you dock the arrow back, as you pull the trigger to pull the arrow back the trigger is going to offer resistance the more you pull it back. They haven’t shown how powerful this is, or if it’ll add a full stop feature where you will not be able to move it past a certain point — depending on in-game activities — but it does offer a ton of options to games.
Basketball games might have increases on pressure as your character becomes more exhausted making it physically harder to pull off shots. Games with driving could use this feature on the break trigger to simulate tight breaks or an Active Lock Breaks system. Games like LittleBigPlanet, where you have to grab and carry things, might make the trigger tighter the longer you’re holding something to simulate hand fatigue. There’s a lot of interesting dynamics that this brings to the table.
It also brings a series of problems. Again, I work in video game retail and one of the things I see all the time is people returning controllers and cashing in on their warranty because they’re rough as heck on their controllers and they’re ruining their joysticks. I feel like this is inviting a LOT more problems with the controller. If you can’t turn these features off, the machinery needed to create resistance and rumbling within a trigger requires a multitude of gears and other moving parts, all of which are going to be smashed by overzealous gamers.
Obviously, I don’t think Sony is too concerned about this as a lot of people, for some reason, don’t purchase warranties and just end up buying one or two new controllers a year so. Having more ways a controller can break is also good for Sony’s profit. Again, like everything else in this article, we’re going to have to wait and see.